March 20th, 2009
Here’s a passage from The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart, published in 1906. I’ve included some context but the main thing I’m interested in is the appearance of the word “cool” in the second paragraph.
“Nonsense,” he said. “Bring yourself. The lady that keeps my boarding-house is calling to me to insist. You remember Dorothy, don’t you, Dorothy Browne? She says unless you have lost your figure you can wear my clothes all right. All you need here is a bathing suit for daytime and a dinner coat for evening.”
“It sounds cool,” I temporized. “If you are sure I won’t put you out—very well, Sam, since you and your wife are good enough. I have a couple of days free. Give my love to Dorothy until I can do it myself.”
I can’t see what “cool” means in the second paragraph, other than “cool” in the slang sense that we use it. My understanding is that “cool” in that sense started, or at least came into common usage, during or after World War II. In any case, 1906 seems insanely early for it.
But what else could it mean in the quotation above? The wardrobe described in the first paragraph doesn’t suggest a particularly cool climate. Is there some other nuance of the word I’m not getting?
I shall leave comments open on this one, at least until the spam gets intolerable.